Charlie Shrem, a prominent evangelist for Bitcoin who is charged by the U.S. with conspiring to launder more than $1 million in the virtual currency tied to the illicit online bazaar Silk Road, is in plea talks, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Serrin Turner asked that Shrem's case be postponed until April 28, saying discussions regarding a possible deal to end the case have taken place, according to a March 28 filing in Manhattan federal court.
Shrem, 24, is the former vice chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, an industry representative to regulators formed to oversee the currency's software protocol. He and a co-defendant, Robert Faiella, are accused of engaging in a scheme to sell Bitcoins to users of Silk Road, which allowed customers to buy and sell illegal drugs anonymously and beyond the reach of law enforcement authorities.
The case against Shrem, who was charged in January, is the latest to be brought by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stemming from the Silk Road probe. Ross William Ulbricht was charged in October with running Silk Road under the alias "Dread Pirate Roberts." In December, Bharara charged three more former Silk Road employees with helping run the website. All have pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court, where the cases are pending.
This is the second 30-day postponement prosecutors have requested in Shrem's case. He was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he returned to New York after giving a speech about the virtual currency in Amsterdam. The first one was granted in February, court records show.
Marc Agnifilo, a lawyer for Shrem, and Turner have had talks "regarding a possible disposition of this case" beginning in early February and continuing as recently as March 24, Turner said in the March 28 filing.
Agnifilo didn't immediately return a voice-mail message left at his office seeking comment about plea discussions.
Shrem has been free on $1 million bond and remains under house arrest while staying at his parent's home in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to his work at the foundation, Shrem was chief executive officer of BitInstant, a Bitcoin exchange company.
Bitcoin, introduced in 2008 by a programmer or group of programmers under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, has no central issuing authority and uses a public ledger to verify encrypted transactions. It has gained traction with merchants selling legitimate products but also has been used to facilitate illegal transactions.